Eldorado - North Ridge
The North ridge on Eldorado
What's the North ridge on Eldorado, you say? I would be asking the same
thing if we hadn't found this cool route this past weekend! Phil and I
were on our yearly pilgramidge up to Eldorado with ice gear, intent on
trying the NW couloir. Recent snowfall and cold temperatures seemed to
indicate that it might be in shape, but Sunday forecast was for warm temperatures.
Undaunted, we packed up the rock and ice gear for the route and headed
up Rouch Creek early Saturday morning.
The weather Saturday was unsettled and we hiked up under cloudy and sprinkling
skies. We knew the approach a little better after last here, so we made
pretty good time across the boulder field section. For you information,
here are some detailed observations of this difficult part of the approach.
Enter the first boulder field and follow obvious cairns and path up to
trail through brush. This trail veers right at the base of the upper,
larger boulder field. It soon ends, and you begin boulder hopping, but
staying close to the right edge, looking for intermittent trails. At about
4400 feet the trail becomes rather continous on the right side of the
boulder field. A little ways further up valley there is a huge white scar-streak
on the left hand cliffs. Under this feature the trail crosses the boulder
field and then continues up the left side of the boulders. (This
is a trail we've missed almost every time) The trail is well defines and
easy going until it peters out neat the top of the boulder field. At this
point, nearing the waterfall, you cross back to the right side (with cairns)
of the boulders and pick up a trail leading to the base of the waterfall.
This takes about two hours to get to from the car, so it is sufficient
to carry only one quart of water up the approach. From here the trail
We arrived at camp on the base of the East ridge in the early afternoon
and quickly set to putting up the tent. Quickly because the big rainstorms
we had seen all day in the distance had finally reached us. The wind was
pretty bad as well, so we set up Phil's lovely single wall tent and crawled
Phil stylin' in the tent.
We ate food, looked and the ceiling, and Phil throughly schooled
me on our on-the-hour rock paper scisor games (3 out of 5 no less!). After
a couple hours we were dozing in our bags when a someone shook the tent
and yelled into it! Ah, our good friend Dan Alwayrd and pals, so good
to see you! They had come to climb the West Ridge on the now snowy and
cold Northwest face. We continued trying to entertain ourselves with bad
humor until the sun went down.
The sun rising over Klwatti ridge.
The night was very cold, freezing an ice crust onto our packs and tent.
It also froze my watch to some degree that it failed to ring out any of
the three alarms I had set. Luckily Phil wasn't sleeping that night, so
he noticed when it began to get light outside. This put us a little behind
schedule seeing as we wanted to finish with the nearly 2 miles of trickly
glacier travel and get on the route before things got warmed up. None
the less, we pack up and were headed out by 7 am. We followed Dan's party's
tracks around the NE Face and into a big crevasse field.
The crevasse field with Dean's spire and the Tempeh towers in the backround.
We had thought that instead of climbing all the way around Dean's spire
and to Dorado Needle, we could descend to the glacier below the NW couloir
from a notch in the North ridge. After getting into the thick of it in
the crevasses, we noticed a route out left to reach our notch. After a
couple of tricky bridges and some maneuvers, we arrived at our notch.
The Northwest face looked bad ass. period. We could see into the NW gully
and it looked hard. Thin ice, or no ice (especially down low), and snow
on steep rock. Getting into the couloir looked difficult, including a
vertical looking snow patch.
The Northwest Couloir's upper sections with lots of 1 inch ice!
We decided that with the warm weather and the poor condition of the route
we would climb the North ridge instead (seeing as we were at its base!).
The north ridge is a rock rib which seperates the Inspiration glacier
from the Northwest face and resembles the West ridge on Forbidden. Excited
to climb, Phil and I ate some food, racked up the rock gear and headed
off! We climbed a short steep snow slope left of the crest, and then crossed
over a crevasse onto another short steep slope. Here we were able to cross
over the moat and get onto the rock. I lead across some snowy rock ledges
and up to the base of a short steep chimney. It looked rather imposing,
and and after placing a piece and cleaning out a hand crack I groveled
and scratched my way up it. Without snow and in rock shoes this step would
be about 5.6/7. Above this the terrain mellowed back to blocky 5th class
and we continued to running belay until I set in an achor to belay Phil
up the step.
Dave climbing the crux chimney. Photo by Phil Fortier.
We were roasting in the sun by now with our jackets on and all our ice
climbing acoutriments hanging off our harnesses. After stowing away the
ice tools, but keeping the crampons on, Phil lead off on more blocky low-5th
rock. We continued a running belay up to the base of an obvious steep
section of rock on the crest.
Phil approaching where the ridge steepens.
The rock above was pretty snow free, so we took the crampons off and
I lead up right on the crest. The rock was pure solid granite with good
pro and lots of mountain-boot friendly edges. The exposure was awesome,
often falling 2,000 feet strait down to the glacier on the West side of
the ridge. After a full pitch of 5.5 rock, I topped out onto lower angled
crest climbing. At 50 meters there was a perfect ledge and horn to sling
for a belay.
Looking down at Phil on the rock pitch.
Phil came up and then we running belayed another two or so pitches of
3 and 4th class rock to the bench where the North Ridge bisects the summit
Phil climbs the last section of ridge before the ice.
We had noticed the steep ice on the North Face of the summit
last year, and wanted to climb a direct route right to the summit's peak.
Thus, being in position to climb this direct route, we reracked the screws
and put on our crampons. Phil lead off and climbed about 35 meters of
somewhat soft 60 degree ice (the temperature was in the mid-60's).
Phil leading a classic ice face.
and soon we were sharing the infamous pinpoint summit of Eldorado.
Phil on the summit.
After a snack in the sun on the summit we headed down the mushy East
ridge. During the descent, I tried several times to kill Phil with big
wet loose snow avalanches, but each time he escaped! We scrambled down
the snowy scree and then had some good foot glissades back down to camp.
Feeling rather jovial, we played a gag with our friend Dan by sliding a big rock
down to the base of his left-at-camp pack. Phil said afterward, "I do declare this
to be the wittiest gag of the season!" I hope you enjoy your new paper weight Dan! :)
We packed up and lugged our heavy gear back down the blistering hot glacier,
through the boulder field, and down the steep trail back to the car. It took
only 4 hours and 15 minutes to descend from the summit to the car, but our knees are now
feeling the price.
The North Ridge isn't listed in Beckey's CAG, but is definetly worth the time and effort
to go up and do. The route could easily be done with one ice axe, but boots are preferred
due to the mixed rock and snow nature of the route. If you know of any history on this route,
please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.